Towards a future-oriented accountability: Accounting for the future through Earth Observation data

Fabrizio Granà, Giulia Achilli, Elena Giovannoni, Cristiano Busco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper follows the call for more future-oriented practices within organisations, particularly in relation to how they respond to growing concerns about Earth’s sustainability and life on the Planet. This study aims to explore how the data produced by major scientific projects in the Space sector can support future-oriented accountability practices by enabling both a projection and an imagination of a more or less distant future, thereby feeding into accountability practices.

Design/methodology/approach: We rely upon a multiple interpretative case study analysis and interview-based data from three main organisations in the Earth Observation (EO) value chain: an International Space Company, a Research Centre of Energy Transition, and a European Private Equity Firm.

Findings: We find that future-oriented accountability practices can be fed by a creative assemblage of scientific data provided by Space sector’s programmes with different sources of knowledge and information. These data are embedded into a broader accountability system, connecting different actors through a ‘value chain’: from the data providers, gathering data from Space, to the primary users, working on data modelling and analysis, to the end users, such as local authorities, public and private organisations. The predictive data and expertise exchanged throughout the value chain feed into future-oriented accountability efforts across different time-space contexts, as a projected and imagined, more or less distant, future informs the actions and accounts in the present.

Originality: This research extends the literature on the time dimension of accountability. We show how a creative assemblage of scientific data with different sources of knowledge and information - such as those provided by Space sector’s programmes and EO data - enable organisations to both project the present into (a more or less distant) future and imagine this future differently while taking responsibility, and accounting for, what could be done and desired in response to it. We also contribute to the limited literature on accountability in the Space sector by examining the intricate accountability dynamics underpinning the relationships among the different actors in the EO data value chain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 May 2024

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